One of Newt Gingrich’s campaign surrogates pushed back on Monday against Mitt Romney’s attacks against Gingrich’s consulting work for Freddie Mac, comparing it to the ex-Massachusetts governor’s work in the business world.
“The governor did consulting work in terms of financial services,” former Rep. J.C. Watts, R-Okla., told reporters. “I think beating up Newt Gingrich for consulting, or beating up Mitt Romney for consulting in the private sector--I think that’s about like saying, let’s beat up Michael Jordan for being a great basketball player.”
Watts has served as chairman of FM Policy Focus, a coalition of financial-services and housing-related trade associations that monitors the activities of Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae. He said he never heard Gingrich's name mentioned as a lobbyist for Freddie.
Watts, who served in the House GOP leadership when Gingrich was speaker, sought to make the case that consultants could not be blamed for influence peddling, as Romney has charged.
“If it’s influence peddling for it to be a consultant, I guess you could make the same, draw the same conclusion and say, why wouldn’t campaign contributions be influence peddling? I think they are protected … First Amendment speech," he said.
Watts also tried to put Romney on the defensive by calling for every candidate to release his tax returns for the past three years. Romney has said he would release his 2010 and estimated 2011 returns this week.
“If you ever consulted, or if you ever did any business in the private sector with the government, release all records on what you did with the government, release all the records on what you did in terms of consulting,“ Watts said.